Via the Free Beacon, a post with a headline like this one requires us to relive this golden moment of hubris following the second debate, after Gabbard had just roasted Harris onstage for her record as California AG.
Why would a top-tier candidate like Kamala Harris care what a pipsqueak like Tulsi Gabbard thinks?
A month later, here we are:
#NEW poll of the 2020 Democratic primary from The Economist and YouGov:
% support among LVs (change vs last month)
Biden: 26 (4)
Warren: 21 (5)
Sanders: 14 (1)
Buttigieg: 6 (-2)
Harris: 5 (-4)
Yang: 3 (1)
Gabbard: 3 (0)
Blasio: 2 (1)
Castro: 2 (1)
All else 1% or less
— G. Elliott Morris (@gelliottmorris) September 4, 2019
Granted, granted, that’s a bad poll for Harris and a good one for Gabbard. The latter is averaging 1.6 percent at RCP and seldom edges north of two percent. Harris, meanwhile, touched 10 percent as recently as last week in a poll from Emerson. But don’t let that result blind you to just how far she’s fallen. She’s now averaging a mere 6.6 percent in all polling and has sunk to five percent (or worse!) multiple times in the past month before today. She’s easily the biggest disappointment in the Democratic race to date.
And while it’s unlikely Gabbard will pass her soon given that Harris made the cut for the next debate and Gabbard didn’t, it seems possible that Andrew Yang will. He’ll be onstage with Harris at the debate; he’s polled at three percent repeatedly over the past month, on par with Cory Booker; and his Big Idea, universal basic income, has attracted grassroots interest. He’ll stand out more at the debate this time too because the number of people onstage will be smaller and will consist mostly of serious candidates. If he has a good night, what reason is there to think he won’t bounce out to six percent or so, past Harris?
And so the mystery of her dismal performance deepens. She’s young, smart, a woman, a minority, enjoys the prestige of a Senate seat and can claim to represent America’s most populous state. She should be appealing to Democratic voters. Why isn’t she? A consensus is forming among the commentariat that she’s a bit too slippery on policy to capture anyone’s imagination, which I think is basically right.
“Too flippy-floppy. I just don’t like her,” said Debby Fisher of Richmond, California — near Harris’s hometown of Oakland — who plans to support Sanders.
Suzanne Cowan of San Francisco said she soured on Harris after her change on health care.
“That’s not my kind of candidate. Either you know what issues you support and you have the courage to stand up for them or you don’t,” she said. “For me she’s ‘I’ll be in favor of whatever is trending’ — and that doesn’t cut it.”
‘Her Brilliance, Her Passion’
Patrick Kollar of Roy, Washington, who recently attended a Warren rally in Seattle, said he’s unsure how to define Harris ideologically.
“That’s a problem,” he said. “I follow politics pretty closely and I don’t know what she’s about.”
There are two models (and potentially a third) for a Democratic nominee in 2020. One is the Vision candidate, the person who recognizes that America needs major changes in all sorts of ways and is intent on delivering it. That’s Bernie and Warren. The other is the Electable candidate, the person who can achieve job one as far as most Democratic voters are concerned, which is ousting Trump. That’s Biden, of course. The third potential model is the Charisma candidate, the person who gets everyone irrationally excited because they’re just *that* good on the stump. Obama 2008 is the classic example; a surprise entry by Oprah into the race would also fill the niche. No one’s really filling it now — the closest thing is Warren, who’s drawing enthusiastic crowds, but even she’s not at the level of hype that Betomania! achieved in Texas last year before O’Rourke took his show on the road.
Harris’s problem is that she doesn’t fit any of the three models. Lord knows she’s not a Vision candidate. To the contrary, her approach to health care seems driven by how best to triangulate between the left and the center to maximize vote totals. She’s not a Charisma candidate either. She’s polished and effective in making her points, as Biden found out at the first debate, but there’ll be no messianic Harris buzz like there was for Obama and Trump. That leaves the Electability model, and she does have some potential there — as a black woman she’s a logical possibility to reassemble the Obama coalition from 2008 and sweep to victory. But Democrats have been haunted for months by the suspicion that only an older white guy can blunt Trump’s edge with the white working class and pull enough Rust Belt votes away from him to win. There’s a case to be made that, however unfair the reasons, Harris might be less electable than Bernie or Warren, say. As Dem voters mull all of that, go figure that they might gravitate to alternatives.